Academic advisement should be a door of opportunity for all students. The college and the advisor should aim to provide for each student an inviting and comfortable physical environment to help foster a respectful, professional and effective interaction. As an architect in the dept of architectural technology, I am acutely aware of the significance, power and potential of our built environment. It can offer a foundation for establishing conducive conditions for all facets of human activity including academic advisement.
Once the optimal physical conditions are in place, the advisor should then aim to provide an atmosphere where students are able to freely express their concerns, interests, ambitions and dreams and be open and trusting to discuss any difficulties, fears or obstacles for their current role as students, and concerns or questions about their future role in the career-based working world.
The above is based on my experience in advising hundreds of students over the past 11 years. Since 2008, I’ve met with students from across the department who come from around the block or from around the world, each with a uniqueness all their own. In order to offer useful guidance and support for our students and their academic lives – which is inevitably linked to their personal, family or work situations – it is vital to approach advisement with a big picture/holistic view. We should aim to help our students find awareness of their own realistic potential, to impart the importance of honesty, to help develop, enhance and nurture the skillsets needed for success on their own path forward. Wayfinding in college, with clarity and practice of patience, helps prepare a student for wayfinding in the real working world ahead.
“When a word comes from the heart, it enters the heart. And when it leaves the tongue [only], it does not pass through the ears.” Moshe ibn Ezra (1055-1140)
These words stated one thousand years ago still apply today. When people speak with each other with care, those sentiments are felt and the advice is sooner taken. This certainly holds true for the conversation between an advisor and a student. I want to focus on three aspects of the advising relationship: honesty, accessibility and individualization.
Advice given to each student should be tailored to that individual. For each program there are essential courses and requisite GPA that all students must take. The individualization goes beyond that to understand what the interests and future plans of the students are and how their school experience can help them achieve these goals.
Honesty must be present from both sides. The student should be honest and realistic both with themselves and with the advisor. An advisor must openly and honestly represent what the students’ options are. Additionally, a student must be able to trust the advisor to follow up on what was promised.
Students should understand when and where information is available.
Well, I guess it is not so secret anymore. In the article 4 Secrets to Effective Academic Advising , addresses some important concepts we have been discussing. Based on our discussion after we met so many partners around the college, I think 3rd “secret” is of great value to us. Let me know what you think.
Our overall impression from walking around was that many of the departments make attempts at being informative to students.
- Most have advising hours posted (one calls it problem solving hours)
- Postings about potential jobs or internships
- Information about tutoring
- Student department specific club
- Other informational resources.
An overall feeling that we got was that the information was dry and often times the negative shouted out the positive. I.e. you can do this BUT….
- The sign in the lounge area was Music can be played (a nice message) but then in BOLD and UNDERLINED – DURING CLUB HOURS ONLY.
- The “Welcome center” was closed when we got there and right outside was a screen that said “DO NOT TOUCH”
- 24 HOUR ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE sign in red by the lounge are.
Not overly welcoming.
Active student academic club
Information about tutoring
A warm and welcoming message (on a drab sheet of paper)
Two images taken from areas where students can go to relax – both stressing the negative rather than the positive.
Advisement Philosophy: Welcoming – Understanding – Comprehensive
- Always welcoming.
- Be understanding of the student and his/her goals and future. To be able to offer better advisement, I must maintain current with industry and understand the differences between the areas of Communication Design and the curriculum that we offer.
- Continue to offer solutions and guidance with our audit, registration, articulation agreements, course subs, course checklist and mapping, department orientations and others (Areas that students often ask about or have concerns). Be positive and fast and assure students that many things can be resolved.
Mentoring – Conversation- Informative
I see advising as mentoring. Mentoring students on their way to obtain a degree and beyond – through the process of setting their goals and achieving those goals for their future career. I intend to encourage honest and informative conversation and build a relationship that will encourage them to come back when they need help.That would be through sharing my experiences with them, sharing the information about the resources (job/internship/tutoring opportunities…), help them understand and navigate advisement pages, degree maps, etc.
Advisement Philosophy and Plan
I believe that successful advisement should create a comfortable and supportive atmosphere with students in order to provide them with the tools to achieve their professional and career objectives.
As an academic advisor, my goals are to:
- Understand and make understand. I try to understand the students’ needs, personal reality, and career goals so that I can make them understand their career paths and choices.
- Provide structure to their academic plans for students to realize that their degrees are more than an accumulation of courses. There is a meaning behind all choices they must make.
- Help navigating the often complicated curriculum of required, electives, general education or degree-specific courses.
- Make possible that students reach their potential. If advising is meaningful and successful, students will be able to focus all their energy in fulfilling their ambitions.
I take a holistic approach to student advisement that helps students reflect on their own set of goals and values. I also try to create a more relaxed atmosphere where students feel comfortable sharing ideas, setbacks, and wishes. Although this philosophy necessitates a bit more time allocated to each student, experience suggests that students walk away with a more satisfied advisement session. In some cases, students are not sure why they are enrolled in the program. In these cases, I work with the student to help him/her find a degree program more suitable to his/her talents. Finally, for each advisee I try to allocate time to discuss potential career options or graduate/professional school opportunities post-graduation. Broadly speaking, my goal as an advisor is to get each student emotionally invested in his/her own education and to provide all the necessary guidance to reach that objective.
We spoke of survey results regarding student satisfaction. Here is the executive summary of the 2018 survey, the full report has not yet been released. Look at the advising numbers, hint they are mostly on the “unsatisfied” list.
I welcome your comments.